Egg freezing FAQs
Are there risks involved?
A specialist will walk you through the various steps of fertility preservation and carefully explain any risks involved in order to help you understand what can happen.
Risk factors include:
- Hyperstimulation syndrome: It is rare, but injectable fertility medications (such as synthetic follicle-stimulating hormone, human menopausal gonadotropins or luteinizing hormones) to induce ovulation can cause ovaries to become swollen and painful. This can happen soon after retrieval (harvesting) or during ovulation. Some signs of hyperstimulation syndrome include abdominal pain, bloating, nausea, vomiting and diarrhoea. In more severe instances fluid build-up in the abdomen and even shortness of breath can occur. If this happens, contact a medical health professional as soon as possible.
- Complications with egg harvesting: Also rare, but it can happen that the aspirating needle used to retrieve eggs during harvesting can cause bleeding, infection or even damage to the bowel, bladder or a blood vessel. Adverse reactions to anaesthesia can also happen during the harvesting process.
- Emotional risks: Egg freezing and implantation processes don’t guarantee a pregnancy. There is a degree of hope involved which may end in disappointment. It may feel like an empowering decision to make and give you a sense of hope for the future, but no specialist can guarantee your rate of success. Even with success of falling pregnant there is a risk of miscarriage too, which can be a devastating experience. It is important to understand the emotional impact where risk of unsuccessful implantation is concerned. A miscarriage is primarily based on your age at the time of having your eggs harvested and frozen. Currently, there is no research that shows any increase in the risk of birth defects in babies born as a result of egg freezing.
If after the harvesting procedure, a woman experiences any of the following, she should contact her health care provider as soon as possible:
- A high fever
- Severe abdominal pain
- Heavy vaginal bleeding (filling more than two pads an hour)
- Difficulties with urination
- Unexplained weight gain
How long can eggs remain frozen?
The length of storage can depend on the clinic you choose to go to for your retrieval / harvesting procedure and some limitations they may have. A standard storage period can be up to 10 years. This period may be extended in special circumstances and will depend on your chosen facility.
You must let the clinic know if you change your residential address or contact numbers during the storage period so that they can maintain contact with you, particularly when nearing the end of the agreed period. If they cannot contact you, your frozen eggs may be taken out of storage and allowed to perish.
Is egg harvesting and implantation painful?
A woman may experience a feeling of fullness (pressure) or bloating in the pelvic / abdominal area. This can be uncomfortable, but very rarely results in the need for time out from normal activity.
The retrieval / harvesting process is done under mild sedation (usually through an IV / intravenous line through a vein and administered by an anaesthetist). A woman will be able to breathe on her own during the procedure, but be in a mild sleep state. She isn’t likely to experience any pain in this state.
Most women are able to return to work a day after the retrieval process. A woman’s ovaries may re-expand for a few days following the procedure. Any discomfort associated with this can be easily managed with reduced activity and a heating pad.